Massachusetts finally has a bill to raise the net metering caps

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After six months of wrangling between the Massachusetts House and Senate and years of failed legislative attempts, the state finally has a viable bill to raise restrictive caps on net metering. Late yesterday a conference committee reported a bill which represents a compromise between the previous House and Senate versions.

Not everyone will be happy with what is in H.4173. Notably, it reduces compensation for surplus generation exported to the grid (calculated either monthly or on a time-of-use basis) 40% for solar projects above 25 kW once the state’s 1600 MW solar goal is reached. Public installations, including municipal solar projects, are exempted from this cut and will still receive full retail rate.

"The Conference Committee report will put solar workers back on the job and enable more families and communities to save with solar,” noted Vote Solar Northeast Regional Manager Sean Garren, who has been a leader in efforts to move the state’s legislature to action. “However, we are concerned about some of the tough choices in this short-term compromise and hope to remedy them in future sessions.”

Garren notes that Massachusetts’ booming community solar sector is likely to be hard hit by the changes. The bill also allows utilities to propose a minimum bill and directs the Department of Public Utilities to consider these proposals.

It is unclear whether the new rates will go into effect when the state has 1600 MW of projects which are allocated for net metering, which has already occurred, or when these projects are qualified and operational. Garren says that the solar industry is working to resolve this issue.

The bill will now go to the House and then the Senate for an up-or-down vote, with only technical amendments allowed. Garren says that this could happen as early as today.

The situation in the state has become urgent. Massachusetts has already hit net metering caps in the service areas of several utilities, and Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) estimates that $617 million in economic activity is on hold as a result. SEIA joined Vote Solar in urging for swift passage of the bill, despite its shortcomings.

"While the compromise proposal includes cuts to the rates at which some customers are credited for solar power, it gets the industry moving again,” reads a statement by SEIA CEO Rhone Resch.

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